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Provos Snub Maghaberry POWs
rights, freedoms and repression |
Monday August 14, 2006 16:12 by Seán Ó Murchú - Republican Sinn Féin - Cork
REPUBLICAN PRISONERS ACTION GROUP
The organizers of the Hunger Strike Commemoration at Casement Park on Sunday August 14th snubbed the prisoners currently in Maghaberry Gaol and their families.
RPAG had approached the organizing committee earlier this week with a statement setting out the conditions of Republican prisoners in Maghaberry. The organizers confirmed this morning that the statement could be read, but refused to let the mother of the prisoner read it herself. Despite the promises when it came to the event this afternoon no statement was read out.
RPAG is therefore asking the media to publish the statement.
Geraldine Taylor of Republican Sinn Fein said:
“The prisoners and the families are outraged at how they have been treated. The families have shown solidarity with the families of the Hunger Strikers and believe that they have much in common. However the sacrifice of today’s prisoners’ and their families has been virtually ignored by those organizing this event.”
For further details please contact 028 90319004 or 07921973328
STATEMENT FROM REPUBLICAN PRISONERS, MAGHABERRY GAOL
On 13th July 1981 a young boy 8 years of age was hoisted onto his uncle’s shoulders. He was given a hammer and a black flag. The young boy then hung the flag on the side of the coal-shed.
Around him he saw grown men openly crying, women talking and going from door to door. The people looked tired, sorrowful and a gloominess hung in the air like a thick dense fog. The answers to the boy’s questions didn’t really register. “A young man from the locality had died on hunger strike”, he was told. He had seen old people die before and there were no black flags. “Why now?”, he wondered. Little did he realise then, that was the beginning of his introduction to Irish politics and Irish history.
Some years later in his teenage years, the young man began reading books on Irish history and came to realise the significance and the symbolism of the black flag which he had hung years before. He read about the struggle for political status in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh, the blanket protest, the no-wash protest and eventually the Hunger Strike which culminated in the deaths of 10 young volunteers. He couldn’t believe the intransigence of the British as they allowed these young men died.
Now as a grown man he continues reading and believes strongly in the Republican ideology which was held dearly by those who died to achieve humane conditions for hundreds of Republican prisoners. Are conditions today better because of the sacrifices of these men?
The young lad who 25 years ago raised a black flag to his coal-shed now lies in a British prison camp. He too suffers the same degrading treatment. He and his comrades suffer strip searches designed to humiliate and degrade as well as 23 hour lock ups in an 8 x 12 tomb. They suffer sectarian abuse from loyalist staff working the landings. They are forced to eat all their meals in their cells like caged animals. They are denied any association with each other on the landing and are only permitted to leave their cells in 2s or 3s, accompanied by at least twice the number of prison officers. Families are denied visits for weeks at a time due to the suspicious reaction of the prison “drugs dog” despite the fact there has not been a single find of drugs on a Republican prisoner or visitor.
Rights that are granted to the rest of the prison population are denied to Republican prisoners; education, exercise, social inter-action – basic human rights. They are threatened with the loss of remission, or of being transported to England if they do not conform. But they will not conform to a regime that denies them the right to be treated with dignity and humanity. They cannot conform with institutional discrimination brought about to criminalise the Irish struggle.
That same young man and his comrades are now on protest in Maghaberry “concentration camp”. This is a protest against criminalisation, a protest for Political Status. They too have issued 5 demands. Freedom of Association, Freedom of Movement, Full Time education, Separate Visiting Facility and the right to Organise their wings. They remain adamant in the belief that theirs is a just struggle. They are prepared to do whatever is necessary to achieve their objectives.
They are not, as the prison authorities are trying to portray, asking for the keys to their wing. They do not expect control of the landings. Their demands have been reasonable, but have been ignored.
In their protest they have been refusing to eat in their cells and are refusing to co-operate with the discriminatory regime imposed upon them. They are showing great restraint in the face of constant provocation. Both the Church and human rights groups have pledged their assistance, but all calls for humanity have been ignored. The prisoners, who have yet again been backed into a corner, feel that their only weapon is to fast. There has been a series of 24 hour fasts and this week a 48 hour fast but there is still no recognition from the authorities.
That young man now experiences the intransigence for himself and asks you the people of Ireland to support the prisoners and their demands, to do all in your power to challenge this injustice, to write letters of support to your politicians, to the press and to the authorities, to show your numbers on the streets in the protests and in the pickets that are being organised across the country.
Go raibh maith agaibh
OC Republican Prisoners Maghaberry Gaol